There are distinctive cultural differences between Mexico and the United States, although they are neighboring countries and parts of the same continent, North America.
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Mexican-Americans, the American citizens bearing Mexican ancestry, make up about 10.8% of America’s total population. Today, America shelters the second-largest Mexican community in the world, which follows Mexico itself.
Mexico and the USA share a common border of around 3,141 km on the northern side of Mexico. However, despite the close physical proximity, a lot of dissimilarities between their social conduct. The culture of the USA has a strong effect of British colonization. The Americans have liberally blended their culture with many other cultures. But the Mexican culture has retained the complexity of its history. The Mexicans have tried to preserve their lifestyle in a conservative manner.
There is no federally recognized official language of the United States of America. However, thirty out of the fifty states have legally made English, their official language. Moreover, owing to the fact that majority of the American population is English speaking, it is regarded as the de facto national language of the country. Apart from English, which is most widely spoken, the indigenous population of the United states have around 150 living spoken languages, and about 150 more of them have been imported from the immigrants. The national dialect of English, spoken in America, is called the American English. It differs from the British English with respect to pronunciations, grammar, and spellings.
Mexico also, does not have a defined official language. Its de facto official language, however, is Spanish. The Mexican dialect of Spanish is called Español mexicano, meaning Mexican Spanish. Mexico is the most populated Spanish-speaking nation in the world, which means that more people speak Spanish in Mexico than in Spain. Statistics tell us that about 110,637,916 people speak Spanish language in Mexico, as opposed to some 46,456,779 people in Spain. The Mexican government also recognizes 62 indigenous Amerindian languages as national languages, and some Mexican Spanish words have originated from these indigenous languages. English is the second language of Mexico. Other minor languages spoken in the country include German, Arabic, French, Chinese, Korean, Armenian, and so on.
Americans, the citizens/natives of the United States of America belong to diverse ethnic as well as national origins, despite which, all of them have blended perfectly in the common ‘mainstream American culture’. Officially, six different races of people have been recognized by the government of the United States, which include White or European American, American Indian and Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander, Black or African-American, Asian, and the people of two or more races. Two more diverse ethnic categories of Hispanic or Latino and Not Hispanic or Latino, have also been identified by the United States Census Bureau.The Hispanic and Latino Americans have been identified as two racially diverse ethnic groups. The European Americans form the majority, constituting about 75% of the total population of America. On the other hand, the Hispanic and Latino Americans comprise the largest ethnic minority in the country. Work is the foremost priority for the Americans, and efficient performance is well-appreciated. They look at money as a status symbol that gives them a sense of achievement. The Americans feel that practical application of the knowledge gained is very important. So, their way of imparting knowledge is based more on reasoning, analysis, and in-depth specialization of the subject.
Pueblo mexicano (People of Mexico) or simply Mexicanos (Mexicans) are a group of multi-ethnic people, who are the citizens of Mexico. Mexico shelters people of a multitude of races, religions, castes, and tribes. When the country achieved its independence from the Spanish colonizers in 1821, the population comprised people of indigenous pre-Columbian ancestry as well as the Europeans, who came through the process of colonization. The fusion of these two, particularly diverse ethnicities, led to the formation of a peculiar multi-ethnic character of the Mexican people. Today, about 78% of the total world population of the Mexicans reside in Mexico. Their American diaspora forms nearly 22% of their population. Mexican people follow their traditional customs and etiquette, rather strictly. Mexicans consider titles and positions as their status symbols. They believe in education based on role learning and so, their academic system emphasizes more on learning through memorization.
The Americans tend to give a lot of importance to their profession, sometimes more than their family. Both men and women have a professional life. So, women in the family work both, inside and outside home. Children are brought up in a more independent manner, with minimal guidance from parents. Parents expect their children to set up their independent households once they start earning. They meet their families only on special occasions.
Family comes first for the Mexicans; their profession comes second. In most Mexican families, men work to earn money, and women take care of the domestic chores. Children are brought up with a lot of parental care and attention. The Mexicans love to settle down in one place, and prefer to stay with their families.
The United States of America is a secular nation, meaning that every citizen enjoys equal rights, irrespective of his/her faith. While 80.2% of the U.S. citizens are Christians (Protestants being the majority, followed by the Roman Catholics and the other denominations), a considerable number of people also practice other faiths such as Judaism, Buddhism, and Islam. Of late, public participation in religion affairs has been reducing. Nevertheless, basic Christian ideals such as salvation and morality are deep-rooted into the American psyche. But, they have a more liberal outlook towards religion. Apart from Christianity, about 4% of the current American population comprises Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, and Hindus.
Mexico has no official religion. However, Roman Catholicism has been regarded as the main religion of the country, with 82.7% adherents, according to the 2010 estimates. Religion has had a very strong influence in the lives of Mexicans. Around ninety per cent of Mexicans follow the traditions of Roman Catholicism. All festivals of the Mexicans are centered around their religion. About 2 to 5 million Mexicans are the followers of the Santa Muerte religion, a folk faith that venerates Saint Death. Religious movements to revive the ancient Mesoamerican religions have also taken root of late. These include the various faiths that were practiced in the Mayan and Aztec civilizations. Apart from these, currently there are approximately 108,701 Buddhists, about 45,000 Mexican Jews, and some 3,700 Muslims in Mexico.
Americans have a large variety and styles of cooking. Most of their traditional cuisines have undergone a change over a period of time, due to the influence of various immigrant communities. Food and styles of cooking vary from region to region, and also depend on the standard of living of the people. Americans are very fond of meat. Beef, pork, and venison are their favorites. They like their meat to be prepared in a slow-cooking style. Fast foods such as hamburgers, fries, and donuts are considered to be American in origin. Moreover, coffee is America’s favorite beverage, and is preferred over tea.
Mexican food is famous all over the world. It is very appetizing because of its flavor as well as the use of colors and decorations. Mexicans prepare different varieties of corn-based delicacies. They use a lot of spices and herbs in their cuisine. Though most of their dishes have originated in Mexico, many have Spanish influences as well. Mexico is the birthplace of chocolate, and it continues to be an important ingredient in many Mexican recipes.
During the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the American artists who worked from the urban centers, were largely inspired by the realistic styles of the European artists. At the same time, as a reaction to the industrial revolution, the American craft movement was taking root in the rural areas. Furthermore, post World War II, Paris was replaced by New York as a center of artistic activity, and this shift brought in many more influences, especially in the genres of Modern and Postmodern art. The art of the United States today, is a fusion of numerous styles. Contemporary American art continues to be based on movements such as Expressionism, Postmodernism, Hyperrealism, Minimalism, Neo-Dada, and so on. Some of the most notable American artists include Ansel Adams, Edward S. Curtis, Helen Frankenthaler, Thomas Hart Benton, Mary Cassatt, etc.
Contemporary visual arts of Mexico are deeply rooted in its folk art traditions (derived from the styles of both, the indigenous people as well as the Spanish colonizers), which form the very crux of Mexican arts. Pre-Columbian art has a very long history in Mexico from about 1800 B.C. to 1500 A.D. A lot of arts developed and thrived over this period of time, and continue to have influence on modern Mexican arts. Notable enough are the Mexican handicrafts such as three-dimensional ceramics, embroidered cotton garments, baskets, hats, etc. From about the 1920s onwards, Mexican murals have been promoted on the world platform. They generally carried social and political messages. Three great muralists particularly earned fame viz., Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, and David Alfaro Siqueiros.
American architecture is different in different regions, and largely results from external influences such as the ones from its British colonizers, alongside others. At present, the dominant theme of American Architecture is ‘modernity’, which can be witnessed in its numerous steel-framed skyscrapers. The public buildings and large manor houses of the 18th and the 19th centuries reflect the neoclassical style of architecture that seems to have been predominant at one point in time. These days, however, owing to the large-scale migrations, we also see a lot of Mediterranean-style edifices coming up in the country.
Much like its visual arts, Mexican architecture also has a long history. At the first level, lies the Mesoamerican architecture, which is famous worldwide for its structures, primarily built for public and ceremonial purposes. Next in line is the Spanish Colonial Style that, as the name suggests, developed during the era of the country’s Spanish colonization. The Spanish influence continued till the second half of the 18th century, when, owing to the financial intervention of the French, a lot a edifices with French influence were created. These remained until about the first quarter of the 20th century. In 1917, after the Mexican Revolution, attempts were made to retrieve Mexico’s indigenous past. This resulted in a subtle combination of Mexican style with European and North American styles.
The history of American literature goes back to the oral traditions of the American Indians, transmitted in the form of legends, myths, folklore, and lyrical compositions. American literature of the eighteenth and the early nineteenth centuries was mostly influenced by the European genres. What may be termed as a truly American literature took root in the early 19th century. The first ever internationally acclaimed American popular writers included James Fenimore Cooper and Washington Irving, who were followed by literary laureates such as Edgar Allan Poe and H.W. Longfellow. The second half of the 19th century saw the rise of the legends such as Mark Twain, William Faulkner, T.S. Eliot, and Ernest Hemingway. In the latter half of the 19th century, literary genres such as ‘hardboiled crime fiction’ came to be recognized.
Mexican literature begins from the period of its prehispanic antecedents, who were settled in Mesoamerica. Their literature has been preserved in the form of various codices as well as inscriptions. Nezahualcoyotl was a very famous 15th century prehispanic writer, best remembered for his poetry. This was followed by the literature that was developed during the colonial era. Some of the major writers of this period include Juan Ruiz de Alarcón and Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. Octavio Paz is, till date, the only Mexican author to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, which he did in 1990.
Theater, Cinema, Music, and Dance
Purely American theater was the result of the efforts of a man called Eugene O’Neill, regarded as the ‘Father of American Drama’, in the early 20th century. Following this, the American theater has come a long way, and has earned international popularity. The American cinema, commonly referred to as Hollywood, continues to be an inspiration to the various film industries across the globe ever since the early 20th century. Also, Hollywood’s influence on the American culture can be seen in all walks of human endeavor such as fashion, etiquette, and so on. American music genres are popular all over the world, and we see a lot of other international genres influenced by the American style. The popular American music genres include jazz, country, rap, and so on. Moreover, the American music industry is the largest in the world. Dance in the United States is greatly varied from region to region. The nation is the home of the hip hop and the Rock ‘n’ Roll dance styles. Added to this, there are numerous folk dances as well, which belong to the Native Americans.
The history of Mexican theater dates back to the pre-Columbian period. It also bears strong colonial influences. The main genres of Mexican theater include street theater, commercial theater, and vernacular theater, mainly in Mayan and Aztec languages. Cinema developed in Mexico in the beginning of the 20th century. The period between 1935 and 1959 is termed as the ‘Golden Age of Mexican Cinema’, when many of their films achieved great financial successes. Today, Mexico City, the capital of Mexico, is the fourth largest film and television production center in the whole of North America. Mexican music is founded on the various kinds of sounds produced by its indigenous people, who used instruments such as flutes, drums, rumba shakers, and seashells for producing peculiar musical sounds. Some musical instruments used currently have European predecessors. There is also a variety of Mexican folk music such as the famous Mariachi style, wherein the musicians dress up in peasant outfits. Other traditional genres of music include Son Jarocho, Duranguense, Jarana, and Norteña. Their folk songs are known as corridos, and are played during festivals. Mexican dances are mainly of folk character. The Mexican hat dance, a.k.a Jarabe Tapatío, is famous the world over. Traditionally, the dancers perform hopping steps with heel and toe tapping movements, a basic feature of Mexican folk dances.
Despite so many differences in their cultures, some sort of integration binds the Mexicans with the Americans, and in a way, promotes their healthy co-existence.